Ex-officer’s account contradicts partner’s
“I thought, ‘If he gets through the gate, I’m gonna die. If he gets through that gate, I’m not gonna be there for my son’s third birthday. And at that point I came up and fired.’ ” David warren, former NOPD officer
Former New Orleans police Officer David Warren spent more than four hours on the witness stand Monday, defending what he called a split-second decision to fire on Henry Glover from behind a gate at an Algiers strip mall just days after Hurricane Katrina pounded the city.
The two men he claims were charging toward a gated breezeway — where he said he stood along a second-story railing, peering down at them — made him fear for his life, he testified.
Warren maintained he thought one of the men was gripping what looked like a handgun, although no such weapon ever turned up.
“I can tell you what I thought I saw was the butt of a pistol and part of the barrel. I thought, ‘If he gets through the gate, I’m gonna die. If he gets through that gate, I’m not gonna be there for my son’s third birthday,’ ” Warren said. “And at that point I came up and fired.
“I still feel to this day that those were the correct actions. I took the actions that I did because I thought I was going to die.”
Warren’s testimony differed vastly from that given by several prior witnesses. Most notably, his account of where he stood, what the men were doing when he fired and what he did afterward wholly contradicted the testimony last week of retired Officer Linda Howard, his partner when they were assigned on Sept. 2, 2005, to guard a detective substation at the mall on Gen. de Gaulle Drive.
Warren is accused of violating Glover’s civil rights by firing the shot that killed him, and of discharging a weapon in the commission of a violent crime.
Following his testimony and that of a few character witnesses, the defense rested Monday. The trial is scheduled to resume Tuesday with one last prosecution witness, followed by closing statements. U.S. District Judge Lance Africk told the jury they will begin deliberating Wednesday.
Warren is being retried following an appeals court decision last year that tossed out his earlier conviction and 25-year prison sentence. The court ruled that his 2010 prosecution was tainted by weeks of evidence about another officer’s burning of Glover’s body on the Algiers levee and a later alleged cover-up.
With the evidence limited to the shooting this time, few legal pundits thought Warren would testify. But his attorneys, Julian Murray and Rick Simmons, had a different idea.
They let a youthful jury of eight women and four men hear at length from the engineer and father of five who moved with his family to New Orleans from Wisconsin and got a late start in police work. At 43, Warren was a rookie patrolman on the day he leaned into the magnified scope of his personal SIG Arms 550 rifle and fired at Glover.
A well-trained marksman who took numerous extracurricular firearms classes and logged a perfect score in his police academy shooting test, Warren claims he thought he missed with a shot of about 66 feet from his personal, long-range rifle.
Left open to cross-examination, he tried to explain away some key questions raised by federal prosecutor Jared Fishman.
- After hearing a message over the police radio about a person arriving at nearby Habans Elementary School with a gunshot wound, why did he never alert higher-ups or anyone else to his admitted suspicion that the rifle shot he fired may have hit flesh and bone?
- Why did he never tell anyone for years that he suspected a connection between his shot and a phone call he fielded two months later from a woman asking for information about her son, saying he had been shot at the same strip mall after the storm and burned?
- If he thought Glover was armed and dangerous enough to charge at a gate after Warren called out, “Police! Get back!” why did he not alert other officers after watching the men run down the street?
Warren testified that he watched Glover and a friend run down the street for a second or two, then ran to the front of the strip mall in case someone was trying to charge from that side.
“You didn’t call anyone on the radio to say, ‘I just fired some shots,’ correct?” Fishman asked.
“A guy with a serious weapon, ignoring a police officer’s command?”
“I think if it were under normal circumstances, (one) would have handled things differently,” Warren said.
Later, Warren said he “felt the danger had passed. My assignment was to stay at the duty station, not to be chasing people at the time, and likewise, my first impulse was what could be coming from the front.”
He added: “This is not a normal day. We can’t operate at this time how we normally operate. The danger was past, and that’s how I treated it.”
Warren said he figured that Sgt. Purnella Simmons, who had come to the strip mall to ask about the shooting, already was aware of the call from Habans School and was headed that way.
But it was Warren’s testimony on the shooting itself that may prove pivotal in the case.
His voice rose and speeded up as he told the jury where he stood, what he saw and how he felt just before he fired at the man he would only much later learn was the 31-year-old Glover.
He described standing at the front of the breezeway and hearing the loud grind of gears from a vehicle in the back parking lot.
Warren said he peered down through a gate and saw a pickup truck with a Firestone placard make a hard, fast stop.
“I knew Firestone wasn’t open for business. It was a stolen vehicle. I was concerned at this point,” he said.
“The doors on both sides of the vehicle are open. I see the passenger jump out. I see both his feet hit the ground at the same point. I said, ‘This isn’t good,’ ” Warren added.
“They’re moving toward the gate in the back, and I’m looking. I’m looking back and forth between the two men and they’re coming at this gate. I’m looking back and forth, and the man in the lead, I see his right hand. There’s bars and obstructions. And in his right hand there’s an object, and that object looked to me like he had a small handgun in his hand.”
After he fired, Warren said, there was no sign that the man he shot at was injured as he ran down the street.
What he apparently missed seeing, according to his account, was a bleeding Glover dropping to the ground, and relatives and others coming out on the street and shouting.
Howard, however, testified that Warren was about 50 feet forward of where he claims he was when he shot Glover, near where she stood behind a locked gate in the back of the strip mall as Glover and his friend, Bernard Calloway, were running away.
Howard said she then pressed her face against the gate to watch the two men head down Seine Street before Glover fell to the street, a hole in his chest.
She said the gates into the breezeway, including two that entered onto a second-floor balcony and one on the ground level, were locked shut. Warren said they were open, and that both cops had ventured out onto the balcony at one point that morning.
Howard also said Warren discouraged her from calling in a police higher-up after the shooting. Warren said he agreed with her desire to make the call.
Howard’s account has shifted over the years, a result of suppressed memories, she said. Warren’s attorneys have seized on those changes, with Murray referring to her as “Flashback Linda.”
Warren’s testimony also contradicted that of former Officer Keyalah Bell, who was riding with Simmons and said she spoke to the patrolman about the shooting.
“I walked over to Officer Warren. He had this really calm demeanor, like nonchalant. Like, ‘I shot him,’ ” Bell testified last week.
“Shot at what? Shot at who?” she said she replied.
“It was like, ‘They were looting.’ ”
Warren testified Monday that he never spoke to Bell after the shooting.
“I don’t have the memory of it. I don’t think it happened,” he said.
Wearing a dark suit and striped tie, Warren calmly rebuked the claim of another former officer, Alec Brown, who said Warren told him “looters were destroying the city, they were pretty much animals and they deserved to be shot.”
Warren said he was “repulsed” by Brown’s testimony.
“I don’t go around characterizing people in broad brush strokes,” Warren said. “That’s not who I am. That’s not how I speak.”
Despite his extensive firearms training, Warren testified that he had good reason to think he missed Glover.
“The man was running away. I fired the shot. If I hit him, I believed he would be down. He would be down right there,” he testified.
Fishman, seeking to cast doubt on Warren’s claim that there were no signs of injury, flashed a photo on the courtroom screen. It showed Glover’s shot and bloodied body face-down in the back seat of the car where he died.
“It’s your testimony that this man, with that wound, showed absolutely no indication as he was running away that he had been hit?” Fishman asked.
“That is correct.”